Sunday, February 11, 2007


OK, I'm finally going to post ... but just on a little point. Mr. Verb long ago talked about the differences between in meaning and usage between the prefix über in English and German, here. I just got a striking example of über- in email correspondence with a colleague in Germany: They* responded to reading a couple of papers about possible traces of German in Wisconsin English with this comment:
Ist ja übercool.
Yes, cool is so established in German that academics use it in an email exchange on a technical topic. But I immediately thought that übercool here (meaning basically 'really cool') would be semantically different from English ubercool/übercool. (Seems that it's often written without the umlaut now in English.) I just assumed that English ubercool would have a negative ring to it — 'overly cool', 'tragically cool', or something. Well, lo and behold, it doesn't, based on googling around a little. There's a company called this, and Google describes its Google Financial interactive charts with this word, etc. One language borrowed an adjective from the other, which borrowed a prefix. Both end up with the same word meaning basically the same thing. That's just plain ubercool, in either language.

*Yes, I'm using singular they ('epicene they'). It was good enough for Chaucer, Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and Mark Twain, apparently.

1 comment:

Stumblerette said...

To me, ueber clearly has a negative ring in English due to its Nazi connotations (they appropriated Nietzsche's term Übermensch). In German, I would almost always prefer ober- to über-, as in oberblöd, but this may be a generational thing (20 years ago, we used to say mega- and felt megacool while doing so.